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Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton Paperbacks) Paperback – January 1, 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gershom Scholem's Origins of the Kabbalah provides a painstakingly detailed history of Kabbalah's rise among medieval French and Spanish Jews, describes the first publication of Jewish mystical texts, and investigates the growth of their influence on Jewish religious life. The book also doubles back to describe secret traditions of Jewish Gnosticism, which describe a Creation story so numerological and esoteric it makes the New Testament book of Revelation look as simple and straightforward as a Saturday-morning cartoon. This book is much denser than Scholem's excellent On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, but for readers with a basic knowledge of Kabbalah, it shouldn't be rough going. --Michael Joseph Gross

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"[Scholem] labors the wealth, even the scandal, of the past in order to multiply options of survival. No great textual scholar, no master of philology and historical criticism commands a technique at once more scrupulously attentive to its object and more instinct with the writer's voice. That voice reaches out and grabs the layman."--George Steiner, The New Yorker

"[Scholem's] work on Jewish mysticism, messianism, and sectarianism, spanning now half a century, constitutes . . . one of the major achievements of the historical imagination in our time. I would contend that it is of vital interest not only to anyone concerned with the history of religion but to anyone struggling to understand the underlying problematics of the human predicament."--Robert Alter, Commentary

"This book has been a classic in its field since it was first issued in 1950, and it still stands as uniquely authoritative and intriguingly instructive. . . . [It is] a monument of revelation and insight bridging anthropology, religion, sociology, and history."--Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691020477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691020471
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In my mind, this is one of the most important books written in the twentieth century. Strong words, I admit; please allow me to make my case. This book helps to remove much of the confusion concerning the Kabbalah which is a rich tradition of repeated attempts to achieve and portray direct experiences of GOD. In the words of a disciple of Isaac the Blind (1165?-1235?), "The essential thing in the divine service of the mystics and those who meditate on His name, lies in this : 'and cleave to Him.' [Deuteronomy 13:5] And this is a cardinal principle of Torah and of prayer, that one make one's thought conform with one's faith." One of the most important scholars of the twentieth century, Gershom G. Scholem (1897-1982) opened up a once esoteric world of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah, to concerned students of religion. The basic thesis of this book is that the Kabbalah originated in one chronologically limited time-span (13th century) and in one geographically limited area (Provençe, France and Gerona, Spain). The editor, R. J. Zwi Werblowsky who worked closely with Scholem, writes "in many way's URSPRUNG UND ANFäNGE DER KABBALAH (1962) [Origins of the Kabbalah] is the most impressive of all [of his writtings] for here Scholem dealt with a major yet enigmatic phenomenon in the history of Jewish spirituality." For Scholem, the oldest literary document of the Kabbalah is the book Bahir. He presents historical evidence that it is a product of Oriental sources combined with purely gnostic tradition (e.g. Merkabah literature) distilled in German Hasidim to arrive in Provençe sometime between 1130 and 1170. Scholem continues with the fascinating history of the Kabbalah with a study of Isaac the Blind, one of the greatest early interpreters from Provençe.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is a very in depth study of the origins of Kabalistic development. Mr. Scholem has obviously done alot of research into this field and is considered one of the leading authorities in it. His works are always very well researched and comprehensive in both scope and content. Though this text is not entertaining it is doubtful that those reading it are looking for entertainment. One will find a treasure trove of in depth information that is informative and insightful. No stone has been left unturned by Mr. Scholem in his study of the material at hand. His interpretation of this field of study is unique in the aspect that he gives the true historical evidence and avoids interjecting his own beliefs into the text. If one is looking to come to a true understanding of when, where, why, who, and how the Kabbalah came to take the form that is currently presented to us in other books then one should invest the time needed to read this text.
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Gershom Scholem, what more would I have to say. I have every one of his books and they are the most perfect books for those who must know
kabbalah. It is the mystic wonder you will never forget.
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Another of Scholem's ground breaking works on mysticism- sterling effort in his attempt to bring the ideas to a wider audience in english and rejuvenate interest in the study of kabbala in general; a goal in which he succeeded.
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